A Taste Of Home – Lamb Paprikash

When Hubby and I began dating, I was not the least bit adventurous when it came to trying new foods.  Being that he was from a different ethnic background – Serbian, I learned rather quickly that I had to learn to at least be somewhat open to trying things beyond my comfort zone.  This was difficult for me, as I was a hamburger and hot dog kinda girl.  Yogurt, cottage cheese, even polish sausage were not things I would consider eating.  I’d have to say I was rather boring and unsophisticated.

Growing up my mother had around 20 different meals that she made using beef, pork roast, and chicken breasts. She never made Chinese food; of Italian dishes she only made spaghetti; Mexican she only made tacos; and the remaining dishes were either grilled or what I consider “American” food – hamburgers, meatloaf, beef stew, roast beef, pork roast, very rarely roast chicken, and ribs.  Very limited, although what she did make was good.

After a few months of dating Hubby, going out to dinner or lunch got old, so I began to experiment a bit in the kitchen.  My mother taught me very little about cooking.  I had a home economics class in junior high, but about the only thing I remember making there was zucchini muffins, which I refused to eat (zucchini, YUK! right?).  So everything I learned about cooking was a hands-on learning experience.  Some meals turned out pretty good, some were inedible, and others needed improvement.

The more I cooked, the more I wanted to try new ingredients and recipes. This has continued through the years and now, although I might not eat some of the recipes I make, I am more than willing to try making practically anything. Hubby is a more than willing guinea pig and even the kids have enjoyed some of my culinary experiments.

When Hubby and I got married I asked him what meals from his heritage he wanted me to make.  He told me flatly, “None!”  His mother was not a bad cook, but growing up in Serbia she had little opportunity to experiment with different ingredients.  Having food to eat was the objective.  Pigeon soup, biscuits with scraps of bacon fat, and smoked meat with bread were some of the highlights.

Still, whenever we went over to his parents house for dinner, his mother always put out a very nice spread showcasing many things she’d enjoyed making since arriving in America some 40+ years ago and Hubby ate it. Some of them were her take on American dishes and others were meals that she had learned to make from her mother, but had little opportunity to make because of not having the ingredients.

If there is one thing I am good at, it is observing.  This is what I have done for the past 20+ years of being with Hubby.  I have watched him eat his mother’s cooking and enjoy it.  Not everything, but there are definitely some things he truly loves, although I’m not sure he’d admit it.  One of the meals that he always enjoys when we are over there is lamb paprikash, which is a traditional Christmas meal for them.  I have never been crazy about lamb, but this is one method of preparation that I do enjoy.

Now that Hubby’s mother is no longer able to have holiday dinners, I decided this year I would give making lamb paprikash a shot.  I had no recipe, as my mother-in-law has nothing written down, no measurements for ingredients, and speaks broken English.  I decided to go on taste and memory for this one.  Basically I figured making lamb paprikash had to be similar to beef stew and took it from there.  The results were a success.  Hubby told me it was better than his mother’s.  But let’s keep that between us — his mother and I don’t get along that well already, this would certainly not help matters in that department.

Lamb Paprikash

DSCF6542

  • 1 Semi-Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • 1 Large Onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 5 Tbsp. Bacon Grease
  • 6 Tbsp. Flour
  • Salt to taste

For me the most important characteristic of any meat that I serve is that it be tender.  To attain this in a stew, I cook it all day.

The first step was to sear the leg of lamb in the pot and brown it on all sides, salting as I turned it.  Once brown, I filled the pot with water, covering the lamb completely.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Cover and simmer anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.

When the lamb falls away from the bone, remove from the pot and cut into chunks.  Some of mine turned out to be shreds, which is fine too.

Return the lamb to the pot and bring to a slow boil.

In a small fry pan, melt butter and cook onion until tender.  Add to pot.

To thicken paprikash, melt bacon grease in fry pan, add flour and use broth from the paprikash to make a rue. Slowly mix the rue into the paprikash and cook for 45 to 60 minutes longer.

The only difference I would make in this recipe next time is to add the sautéed onion earlier so it’s flavor incorporates more into the gravy.

Giving Hubby a taste of home is important to me.  Family recipes are a treasure to pass down through generations and now I have one from Hubby’s mother for books, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Advertisements

Christmas Candy #5 – Creamy Peanut Butter Fudge

Back when I was a young girl, every couple of years my family would head up north to a family reunion on my father’s side.  We’d spend a weekend on the farm of one of our cousins hiking, talking, playing horseshoes, riding motorcycles, picking apples, and tubing down the Ausable River.  Most of all, though, we ate.  Everyone brought food, everyone made food, and everyone ate food.  There was absolutely no chance of anyone going hungry, because there was always something cooking.  From 5 in the morning until well after midnight, everyone fought over who was going to get the kitchen next.

When my children came along, the family reunion had all but stopped.  Thankfully, one of my cousins took it upon herself to organize one last hoorah.  I took the opportunity to spend the weekend taking pictures of the old farm, hiking along the trails for one last time with my children, and gathering recipes from my cousins.

One recipe that I am thankful I got was from my cousin Linda.  She was famous for making her peanut butter fudge every time there was a family reunion.  It was popular with the kids, of course, but the adults loved it just as much. That last time we gathered at the farm, Linda taught me how to make her fudge.  I’m not sure I would have been able to make it had she just given me the recipe.  Not being familiar with making fudge, I was terribly intimidated by it. After watching her do it however, I realized that fudge wasn’t something to be afraid of.

Linda’s Creamy Peanut Butter Fudge

I really should have gotten a bigger bowl to store this in.  I guess we'll just have to eat until we can fit the lid on.

I really should have gotten a bigger bowl to store this in. I guess we’ll just have to eat until we can fit the lid on.

  • 1 lb. Light Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Cream or Milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1 Cup Cream Peanut Butter

Bring sugar and milk to boil over medium heat.  Heat to soft-ball stage — 235 degrees.  Linda never used a thermometer.  She used a bowl of ice water and dropped some of the sugar and milk mixture into it after it had been boiling for a while.  I use both.  I wait until it reaches 235 and then start testing for the soft-ball stage.  It isn’t an instantaneous thing that once it reaches 235 it’s done, so be sure to test.

Once the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, add the butter and stir until melted.

Remove from heat and add creamy peanut butter.  Pour immediately into buttered or foil lined 9×9 baking pan. Refrigerate until set.  I prefer to put my fudge in a foil lined pan because it makes it much easier to remove from the pan.

Not even a year after the reunion we lost Linda very unexpectedly.  It was a terrible shock to the entire family.  After her funeral the family gathered together and reminisced.  I brought up her peanut butter fudge and everyone agreed it was the best they’d ever tasted. Many in the family commented that they wished they had learned how to make it.

I’m not sure that mine lives up to Linda’s, but it is one of my families favorites and a recipe I hope to pass down for many generations.  It has become a Christmas tradition in our family.   I am sorry Linda is no longer with us but she will forever live on in the memories and recipes she left behind, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mini Desserts #5 – Creamy Frozen Mini Fruit Cups

Serving frozen desserts to a crowd can be cumbersome and inconvenient.  When I found a set of square mini dessert/appetizer bowls, I knew these would definitely make serving these creamy frozen fruit cups easy.

Creamy Frozen Mini Fruit Cups

DSCF6243

  • 1 pkg. 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 10 oz. Maraschino Cherries
  • 11 oz. Can Mandarin Oranges, drained
  • 1 Pint Jar Crushed Pineapple, drained
  • 1 8 oz. Tub Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

Combine cream cheese and sugar in mixer and beat until fluffy.  Chop maraschino cherries.  Add cherries and pineapple to cream cheese mixture.  Fold in mandarin oranges and whipped topping.

Spoon fruit mixture into cups and freeze until firm.  Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

I love this recipe, especially because it was one I was able to use my home-canned Maraschino Cherries and crushed pineapple in.  Whenever I can use something from the pantry that I made during the past year, I find the dessert even more tasty, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Cookie #7 – Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies #1

Making a cookie that has more than one flavor going on, is my favorite type of cookie.  It’s like getting the best of two worlds.  That’s what I found with these chocolate pinwheel cookies.  This particular recipe is not very sweet.  In fact, I would have to say they are rather bland.  Not a bad thing, just not bursting with chocolate flavor.

Hubby likes these with tea and I like them for a change from the deep, rich chocolatey flavor of my Chocolate Cake Mix Crinkles.  I do have another recipe for chocolate pinwheels that I still want to make that uses more of a frosting layer between the vanilla cookie.  I have not tried this one yet, but it is on the list for this holiday season.  For now, if you are looking for something that is more along the lines of a shortbread type cookie, this is the one.

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookie

Pinwheel

  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 4 tsp. Vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 6 Tbsp. Coco mixed w/2 Tbsp. melted Butter and 2 Tbsp. Milk
  1. Combine coco with melted butter and milk.  Mix well and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add egg yolks, beating well after addition.  Add vanilla and milk and mix well.
  4. At low-speed gradually add the dry ingredients.  Increase speed until dough pulls away from side of bowl.
  5. Divide dough in half.
  6. To half the dough, mix in the coco mixture.
  7. On wax paper or pastry board, roll out 1/2 of the vanilla dough to make an 8×7 rectangle.  Do the same with half of the chocolate dough.  Place the chocolate rectangle on top of the vanilla and press together lightly.  Roll the dough tightly from the short end and wrap in plastic wrap.
  8. Repeat with remaining vanilla and chocolate dough.
  9. Place wrapped dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  10. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325.  Slice logs to about 1/4 thickness with a sharp knife.
  11. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes.

I like these cookies as they are when I don’t want something too sweet or want to dip them in milk.  If you wanted to make it more chocolatey, you could always frost with some chocolate butter cream frosting or even better some chocolate bitter-sweet frosting.  I’ll have to post the recipe for that frosting soon, it is awesome.

These cookies are a bit more time-consuming to make than a drop cookie because of the rolling out and the two layers, but well worth the effort.  They look impressive and although not bursting with flavor, they are still a tasty treat, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Christmas Cookie #6 – Soft & Chewy Molasses

So many cookies that are made during the holidays tend to be heavy and sweet.  This particular recipe is neither of those and because of that are one Hubby’s go-to cookies after a day of feasting on holiday treats.

Molasses Cookies

Molasses

  • 3/4 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/3 Cup Molasses
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar for rolling

In mixing bowl combine melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and egg.  Beat until smooth

Stir in molasses.

Combine dry ingredients and spices and blend into molasses mixture.

Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll dough into walnut size balls and roll in sugar.  Place cookies 2″ apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.  I like to bake a dozen at a time, and freeze the remaining balls for later in the season.

The deep flavor of molasses makes these cookies an excellent topper to a heavy meal — not too sweet, soft and chewy.

Half-way done with my goal of 12 different cookies for the holidays, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mini Desserts #3 – Nutella Cheesecake Trifles

One of Grace’s and Hubby’s favorite spreads for bread is Nutella.  Pairing this with brownies and cheesecake made this mini dessert their favorite of all the ones I’ve made so far.

Nutella Cheesecake Trifle

DSCF6079

  • 1 – 2 Cups Crumbled Brownie
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Nutella
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 8 oz. Tub Cool Whip Topping
  • Chocolate Sprinkles

Combine cream cheese and Nutella in mixing bowl and beat until smooth.

Add vanilla and mix to combine.

With a wooden spoon, fold Cool Whip into mixture until no white streaks remain.

Divide Nutella mixture in half.  Add brownie crumbs to one half of mixture and stir to combine.

Fill half of dessert glass with brownie/Nutella mixture and top with plain Nutella mixture.  Add chocolate sprinkles.

This mini dessert is on the light side because of the addition of Cool Whip and is the perfect finish after a heavy meal, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mini Desserts #2 – Peanut Butter Pie Shooters

I am not the biggest fan of cheesecake, but this particular recipe is one I can’t even resist.  Very rich, super creamy, and no bake — does it get much better than that?

Peanut Butter Pie Shooters

DSCF6082

  • 1 Cup Cream Peanut Butter
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 14 oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Whipping Cream
  • 16 Oreo Cookies
  • 5 Tbsp. Melted Butter

Beat cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth.

Add milk and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Add powdered sugar and beat until mixture thickens.

Add liquid heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until the mixture fluffs.

Stir melted butter in crushed Oreos and press 1 – 2 Tbsp. into bottom of each dessert cup.  Pipe peanut butter mixture into cup and sprinkle top with additional cookie crumb mixture.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

I’ve made this recipe using in an 8″ pie plate in the past, but using these mini dessert cups just makes this so much fun and the perfect size serving.

Peanut butter cup in a glass, does it get any better, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mini Desserts #1 – Layered Jello

This year I decided to jump on the band wagon and buy myself a set of mini dessert glasses.  For the past two weeks I have been experimenting with a bunch of different recipes using these glasses.  I really like serving desserts in this fashion because I can make five or more different desserts and being that the servings are so small, my guests can experiment with several of them without risk of over-eating.

Today I decided that I just didn’t have enough on my plate to do, so having a good 8 to 10 hours to kill, between making dinner, baking cookies, making candy, going on a day trip with Hubby and the kids, and doing a few loads of laundry, I made these wonderfully time-consuming layered jello desserts.

DSCF6221

It’s really not that difficult to make, just terribly time-consuming.  So if you’ve got time to kill, or just really want to serve something that looks really pretty, give this recipe a shot.

Layered Jello

  • Five different flavors 3 oz. pkgs. Jello
  • 2 Cups Boiling Milk
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Envelopes Knox Gelatin
  • 2 Cups Sour Cream
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla

Begin by dissolving first flavor of Jello in 1 cup boiling water.  Add 1/4 cup cold water.  Pour first layer into glass.  I marked one of the glasses with a marker to give me a guide.  The glass was 3″ and I had 10 layers that I planned on making.

DSCF6224

After I filled the amount of glasses I wanted to make, I poured the remaining jello in a rectangle corning ware dish. The original recipe called for only four different flavors of Jello and a 9 x 13 pan was used.

Put the glasses in the refrigerator to set.  The small glasses take about 30 minutes, whereas the corning ware dishes take 45 minutes to an hour.

Add sugar to boiling milk and mix till dissolved.

Dissolve Knox gelatin in 1/2 Cup cold water.  Let set 5 minutes.

Add gelatin mixture to milk and sugar.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until blended.  Let cool.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE CREAM MIXTURE AT ALL UNTIL YOU LAYER IT GLASSES.

When first layer of Jello is set, pour a layer of cream mixture on top and return to fridge.  Let this layer set for 20 to 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the next two flavors of Jello in the same manner as before and let stand OUT OF THE REFRIGERATOR TO COOL.

When cream layer is set, pour next flavor of Jello on top to make next layer and refrigerate.  After each layer of cream has been added from here on, immediately prepare another Jello flavor and let it stand OUT OF THE REFRIGERATOR TO COOL.  You do not want it to gel at all, but it must be cool.

I cannot wait to serve these to our guests tomorrow.  Even if they don’t like Jello, I think they’ll find them irresistible.

These little desserts took a long time to make, but they were well worth the effort.  Remember, there’s always room for Jello, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Candy #1 – Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

One of my favorite candies as a child were those wonderful melt-in-your-mouth mints that I got when my parents took us out to dinner.  I can’t remember anything about the restaurants they took us to, the names or types, but I do remember that it seemed every restaurant we went to had a big bowl of these tiny mints on a podium near the entrance.  The pastel-colored mints were light and sugary, and melted in my mouth.  I could hardly wait till we left so I could take a spoonful and slip them into my pocket to enjoy all the way home.

A few months ago I was researching different candies to make this holiday season and came across several recipes for butter mints.  I just had to try them.  Zeb absolutely loves mint, it’s his favorite.  So tonight, we set to work on this simple, and quick recipe and were thrilled with the results.

Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

DSCF6239

  • 1/4 Cup Softened Butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 3 1/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Peppermint Extract
  • Green Food Coloring

Mix butter and salt in mixer till blended.  Add milk, food coloring and 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract and mix until well combined.

Begin adding powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  After all the sugar has been added, taste the dough. If you want more flavor, add an additional 1/4 tsp. of extract.

Divide dough into 8 to 10 balls and roll into logs.  Slice and store in air tight container in fridge.

These mints turned out perfect.  They melted in my mouth just like the ones I remember from my childhood.

Memories are great, but making these mints with Zeb and making a new memory is even better, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Cookie #4 – Quick & Easy Biscotti

A few years ago a girlfriend surprised me with a gift of homemade biscotti when she came over to visit.  I had never eaten this type of cookie before and was pleasantly surprised with both the texture and flavor.  My friend sent me the recipe, but reading the list of ingredients and the laborious instructions, I was somewhat turned off from attempting these on my own.

Sometime later while thumbing through a cookbook at the bookstore, I came across a recipe for lemon biscotti using a cake mix.  I just had to try it.  It turned out perfect!  Of course, lemon was good, but the family wanted chocolate, so I experimented a bit and came up with this.

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

DSCF6217

  • 1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 C. Melted Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Chocolate Syrup
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Mini Chocolate Chips

Mix cake mix, flour, butter, chocolate syrup, eggs and vanilla in large bowl.  Fold in half a bag of mini chocolate chips.

Divide batter in half and shape into log.  Place halves on parchment lined baking sheet and cover with more mini chips.

DSCF6214

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes.

DSCF6216

Cut into 1/2″ slices and bake an additional 15 minutes, turning once.

I love the versatility of using a cake mix and having the option of so many different flavors.  Today I made our favorite triple chocolate and then used a Funfetti cake mix.

Funfetti Biscotti

DSCF6217

  • 1 Box Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 1 Stick Butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • Sprinkles

Follow above directions, using sprinkles on top of formed logs prior to baking.

DSCF6214

Today I worked on five different cookies, so with each I froze at least half the batter.  With these I froze one log of each for another day.

DSCF6215

A day of baking and a home filled with freshly baked cookies for the holidays, for this I am — Simply Grateful.